LONDON — Boots the Chemist is speeding up its search for new management as the U.K. retail chain fights for its share of an increasingly competitive market.

Earlier this week, John McGrath, chairman of Boots, said in a statement that he would step down in July 2003. He said he wants Sir Nigel Rudd, deputy chairman of the company, to be his successor.

In response to rampant speculation in the U.K. press, he also admitted that the company was looking to replace chief executive Steve Russell. He said Russell’s successor would be named shortly. "This search was undertaken with the full knowledge and support of Steve…who has made a substantial contribution to Boots over many years and in many roles," he said.

However, a London-based equities analyst, who reports on Boots, said he doubts a management shakeup will necessarily make the retail chain more competitive. "For a while now, Boots has been subject to sustained price pressure from chains like Wal-Mart Asda in the toiletries division," said the analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Its decision to go upmarket and focus on added value services — such as prestige products, dentistry, manicures and massages — has meant that it’s riding two horses at the same time. It offers things like three-for-two toothpaste — and $24 handpressed elderflower shampoo. Moving upmarket is not necessarily the solution because Boots runs the risk of losing is core customer."

As reported, Boots has abandoned plans to roll out 65 upscale Pure Beauty stores.

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